Fight for Your Country to Do Even Better
Two weekends ago, Bernie Sanders came to town. It was an opportunity for us to share the lessons we’ve learned about the Canadian health care system with the United States Senator from Vermont. But it was also an occasion to reflect on our health system and recognize that despite its strengths, gaps remain. Canadians take great pride in our health care system, as well we should. I agree with the Senator’s call that we should “Stand up, fight for your country to do even better, but defend with pride what you have achieved.”
As Dr. Danielle Martin — an associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and Vice President of Medical Affairs and Health System Solutions at Women’s College Hospital — pointed out at the Sanders talk at Convocation Hall, there are significant limits to Canada’s public health system. We don’t cover dental or vision care, physiotherapy or most drug therapies; points Professor Martin reiterated last week as keynote speaker at the annual Dean’s lunch for Faculty supporters. There is a continuum of care that is unavailable to Canadians, unless they can afford it.
Among the services not always covered by our public health care system is the work of the rehab sector. Just yesterday we welcomed the newest graduates of occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology. That’s in addition to the rich scholarship that led to M.Sc. and PhD degrees for students from the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, which we also celebrated. They depart U of T Medicine with the same commitment as any graduate of this Faculty, a commitment to supporting the health and wellbeing of others. We are proud of their achievements, we are certain in their abilities, and we are confident in what they’ll achieve.
Our health system needs to recognize the totality of care. During her introduction of Senator Sanders, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne made an important point: our health system is the result of deliberate choices made by the generations that preceded us. And as Senator Sanders said, “How a country chooses to provide health care is about its core values as a nation.” So, how do we choose to value all health professions — particularly the rehab sector — as part of our health care system? And, how can the substantial evidence that rehabilitation services in hospitals and in communities reduce both costs and burden be translated into public policy?
As most in this Faculty know — and exhibit every day — we have a responsibility to not simply be part of our health system, but to improve the system. That means engaging in research that informs new treatments and innovative care, but also advocating for system improvements, when necessary. It’s for each individual to articulate their beliefs, and act accordingly. But, I hope none of us becomes complacent and that we are willing and able to articulate our views for the benefit of those we serve.
Dean, Faculty of Medicine
Vice Dean, Relations with Health Care Institutions
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